Discuss the view that the most important factor explaining the rising divorce rate is changes in the law.

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Discuss the view that the most important factor explaining the rising divorce rate has been changes in the law.

Rebecca Christmas

There have been many factor which may explain the rising divorce rate and whilst changes in the law is one of them I don’t believe that it is the most important.

One of the factors which may explain the rising divorce rate is changes in the law, before 1857 it was impossible to be grated a divorce unless a private Act of Parliament was passed allowing you to get a divorce, this was exceptional expensive so the divorce rate was very low. In 1857 the Matrimonial Causes Act was passed which allowed new grounds for divorce such as adultery, desertion and cruelty but at least one partner had to be found guilty of one (or more) of these act before the divorce was granted. A series of acts throughout the early 20th century reduced the costs and again widened the grounds for divorce and in 1949 the Legal Aid and Advice Act helped those who were less well off the get a divorce. One of the major acts of the 20th century was the Divorce Reform Act of 1969 which now allowed people to divorce without there being adultery, desertion or cruelty it could simply be stated that the marriage was beyond repair; the act came into force in 1971 and was followed by a rapid rise in the divorce rate. In 1985 the 3 years a couple had to wait for a divorce was reduced to 1 by the Matrimonial Family Proceedings Act. Changes in the law have allowed more people to get divorced easier but it doesn’t explain why the divorce rate is rising.

Another factor which could explain the rising divorce rate is the changing expectations of love and marriage. Sociologists have been arguing since the 1950’s that changing expectations of love and marriage have led to increasingly unstable relationships. Some Functionalists claim that people are expecting more from marriage and therefore there are more divorces because people are less likely to put up with an unhappy marriage. Fletcher (a Functionalist) argues that the higher divorce rate reflects a higher value placed on marriage. More recently sociologist Giddens has seen a trend in confluent love, (which

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